Sited on a peninsula, a footbridge leads you over the creek to the house defined by the meandering creek on three sides. Jim Wiley of the Oglesby Group designed this 2,000 square foot home for Mr. and Mrs. Bartram Kelley in 1956 to accommodate their love of music.
A 48 foot square shell is built around a concert room with 16 foot ceilings. This main room has two walls of stacked eight foot windows framed by four inch square posts, laid out on a four foot module, that serve as the sole support of these walls that allow a full view of the surrounding creek. Sliding doors to the bedrooms on wood tracks allow privacy for the family of four and provide balcony spaces for audiences of up to 125 for performances or recitals.
The concert room is shaded from direct sunlight until September 1st when the concert room floors begin to receive sun on the edge. By the end of December, the entire room is illuminated as the winter sun travels lower on the horizon. Mr. Kelley, an engineer and founding partner of Bell Helicopter, was aware and comfortable with new and innovative materials of the 1950s. An example of this is the lightweight translucent honeycomb sheet that serves as the sliding door from the master bedroom to the concert room. Six inch wide wood planks are used for the ceiling. Open stairs with metal railings take you to different levels and cubicles, which can be opened up to become part of the concert room. Maybe more than any house in Dallas, a person can enjoy the hidden elegant setting, the intimacy of a somewhat primitive structure, and the elegance of a very sophisticated design.
Additional bridges take you over the back creek and a path leads you to the turn of the century servant’s quarters. This home on Drexel reflects the 1950s and is an inspiration for this century. This home was the recipient of the Texas Society of Architects Merit Award in 1963.
This home is the greatest peril of all architecturally significant homes in Dallas. Although a profound and influential home, it is small and constructed of inexpensive materials on an immensely valuable piece of land. Hopefully, this home will find its new place in Old City Park to be used as a visitors’ center or in some capacity to remind Dallas of its architecturally significant mid-century history.